Handing out the Mariners' midseason awards

Lewis (HR, 8-game hit streak), Dunn (6 one-hit frames) power Seattle to sweep

August 24th, 2020

SEATTLE -- The Mariners reached the halfway mark of this shortened season Sunday on a high note, finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rangers with a 4-1 victory and again getting encouraging results from a couple of key rookies.

Center fielder capped a terrific first half with his seventh home run, and he is hitting .368 after a 1-for-4 afternoon, while fellow rookie set a career high with six strikeouts as he delivered six scoreless innings of one-hit ball.

Recently promoted rookie smacked his first career home run as well with a two-run shot in the fifth, and the youngest team in the Majors recorded its first sweep of the season in improving to 11-19.

Dunn was knocked out of his last start against the Dodgers after two innings when he took a line drive to the ribs, but the 24-year-old rebounded with easily the best showing of his young career and now is 2-1 with a 5.57 ERA in five starts this season.

“Great outing by Justin,” manager Scott Servais said. “I didn’t know quite what we were going to get, but his stuff was as good as we’ve seen in quite some time. That was a really nice bounce-back. And that’s three days in a row we’ve run 24-year-old starters out there and they all held their own. It’s great to see. These guys are continuing to learn and get better, and the confidence is growing. That’s what this year is all about.”

With that said, here are the Mariners first-half award winners:

Most Valuable Player: Kyle Lewis
The 25-year-old wins this one hands-down and would actually be in the running for an AL midseason MVP honor and a lock for the All-Star Game if there was one this year.

Lewis could have had three hits on Sunday, but Texas left fielder Nick Solak robbed him of extra bases with a nice over-the-shoulder catch in the fifth, and then he lined a shot off the pitcher’s leg that went right to shortstop Yadiel Rivera in his last at-bat.

“Kyle is seeing the ball great,” Servais said. “It’s very easy. He’s not swinging hard, you can see it. His effort level is at a perfect spot right now, understanding where he’s at and the pitches he’s looking for. ... It’s some kind of fun to watch, just to see him mature and grow and the confidence. And it’s rubbing off on some other guys, too, which is also a bonus.”

Cy Young Award:
The No. 1 starter has been rock solid atop the rotation once again, providing the welcome leadership and consistency for a young team that benefits greatly from his professional approach and bulldog attitude.

The 28-year-old is 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA in his first five starts, showing again why the Mariners wanted to have him be part of the long-term plans.

Rookie of the Year (non-Lewis division):
The 24-year-old has been very impressive in his last three starts, allowing just two earned runs over 18 innings with two walks and 16 strikeouts. That’s a welcome sight from the lefty, who could fit in quite nicely in future rotations alongside younger prospects Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock -- the franchise’s last three first-round Draft picks.

Unsung Hero:
Nola has quietly gone about his business this year, but he has been a huge plus both behind the plate and with the bat while stepping into everyday catching duties with Tom Murphy sidelined. Nola slugged his fourth home run on Sunday and is batting .298 with 16 RBIs. He’d be a serious AL All-Star candidate, too, if they were having such a thing.

“Awesome first half,” Servais said. “I can’t say enough about the job Austin has done. The quality of at-bats day in and day out is very impressive. Put on top of that what he’s doing behind the plate; he’s never caught this much in his life. He’s helping a young pitching staff through all this and is very, very valuable."

Comeback Player:
Since a rough season debut, Walker has been outstanding as he returns from a two-year-long Tommy John recovery. The 27-year-old is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over his last four starts and has wins over the A’s and Dodgers. Given he’ll be a free agent at the end of this season, Walker could well wind up being dealt by the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline if EVP/GM Jerry Dipoto finds a contending team willing to part with a worthy prospect in exchange for a one-month rental.

Best reliever:
Williams has come out of nowhere to take the closer role, and the 29-year-old notched his sixth straight save on Sunday. The right-hander was claimed off waivers from the Brewers during Spring Training and has found a new home not far from his hometown of Camas, Wash.

“He’s got two really good pitches,” Servais said. “The ability to throw his slider in any count is a separator. He doesn’t just have to rely on the fastball, but he’s throwing harder now than probably any point in his career. That’s a credit to him. He made some adjustments when we were down during the pandemic and when he came back, he’d done something different mechanically."

Biggest surprise:
Moore is on the 10-day injured list with a sprained right wrist, but the versatile utilityman opened eyes in his first 21 games and earned a full-time starting role -- albeit one moving around to various positions -- by posting a .282/.364/.538 line with five homers and six stolen bases.